You’d probably have to be living underneath a rock not to understand what a huge election this will be for America. The President of the United States is arguably the most powerful leader in the world and all eyes are certainly on the nominees. Countless experts have already weighed in on the impact of each candidate, what they bring to the table and the differences in their proposed policies. I would like to take a glimpse into the candidates in terms of how they’ve been leveraging their leadership (a topic I consult on with corporations and CEOs about every single day.)
Few people are aware that some years ago, I actively worked in professional politics at the local, state and national levels. My focus was on strategy and the various “get out the vote” approaches. These days, I intentionally don’t share much with my clients about who I have worked with/for because many people will create inaccurate thought bubbles about what that means about me. (For more on thought bubbles, check out my post from last week).
My energies and passion shifted to business nearly 20 years ago and these days, I simply do not have the time to follow political goings-on as actively as I once did. Of course, like all of you, there are still issues I am concerned and feel very strongly about. Now that the national conventions have wrapped up and the candidates are once again hitting the campaign trail, there certainly is no shortage of information to dissect. With my book (More Than a Minute) arriving in bookstores next week, I figured now would be a good time to compare and contrast the Presidential hopefuls, Barack Obama and John McCain, against the criteria that I believe is imperative for everyday business leaders to try and gauge where they stack up.
As reflected in the subtitle, our world continues to change in dramatic ways and any leader in business or politics that hopes to manage effectively must learn to adapt to those changes. In this regard, both Obama and McCain seem to be on top of the changes. Given their busy schedules, kudos should be given to their well informed staff members who debrief them frequently on the latest pertinent information across a number of categories. Outwardly, Obama has probably done a better job utilizing some of the newest forms of communication approaches including blogs, text messaging and IM’s. I have not heard if McCain is doing the same thing which means, if he is doing it, he has not captivated as vast an audience in this regard as Obama. Certainly, both candidates are aware of how powerful the proper utilization of viral marketing and capitalizing on that instant connection with your audience can be when attempting to spread a message.
In More Than a Minute, I outline some key steps for being a great leader and manager today. My first chapter, Setting the Stage illustrates how important it is for leaders to get clear about what they know and what they don’t know. In my opinion, both candidates fall short in this category because they both want us all to believe they already have it all figured out. This could be all about image and in some regards they might be able to point the finger back at an unforgiving public. Chances are if the candidates even hinted that they did not have an answer for every question, we’d likely rip them apart for their lack of knowledge (see recent articles on Palin’s answers to foreign policy questions for some interesting opinions in this regard). The public seems to demand that both nominees know everything but then we get frustrated when they act as if they do. The name of the game for Obama and McCain from here on out should be balance when it comes to identifying the scope of their knowledge. Shoot straight if there is something they don’t know enough about. I coach a lot of CEO’s on this technique. Say you don’t know and commit to when you will get back with an answer – the sooner the better in most cases. It would make for some interesting comments from the political pundits if our candidates practiced this approach!
As this campaign intensifies and Election Day draws closer, I look forward to watching how both candidates evolve as potential leaders and I plan on posting some more about it in the weeks to come. If you have any thoughts on the leadership qualities of either candidate, please leave a comment and we can keep the conversation going!
I am traveling this week and next and next, but always love to connect and hear from others.